Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A huge sign that Accenture does not understand the chemicals industry

Courtesy of my morning ACC Smartbrief, I see that Accenture has put out a report about the shale gas revolution and how the chemicals industry needs to prepare for future economic conditions once the boom is over.

All fine, but the report (PDF here) is marred by horrifyingly amateurish graphics of colored water in flasks, soap bubbles and dry ice in water. If they had put "IGNORE ME, I KNOW NOTHING OF YOUR WORK" in 72-point font across the bottom, the effect could not have been worse.

(Why do people (business majors, really) think about chemistry and chemicals this way? Do they understand a whit of what we do? Why not pointing-hard-hat guy/gal?)

18 comments:

  1. You must have seen this completely unintentional corporate self-parody:

    http://www.thebaron.info/assets/News/2014/venn-diagram.jpg

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  2. "Why do people (business majors, really) think about chemistry and chemicals this way?"

    As a sort of business major (MBA) and still think I'm a chemist (PhD/PDF, but have not worked directly in science in years) I'll field this question.

    Chemistry, overall, looks boring. Below average attractive people adding one clear liquid to another, watching it stir, then running it down a white cylinder and collecting test tubes. Yawn. And while there are some aspects of chemistry that are fun (I love a Kugelrohr as much as the next guy and could watch a Soxhlet for hours) and exciting (like the thrill of adding fresh Pd catalyst to a MeOH/HCOOH solution before you're had your coffee or quenching that LiAlH4 reaction you were certain was done) it just doesn't make for good photo opps.

    On the plus side, chemistry is way more photogenic than biology.

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    1. Fair enough, but can we agree that the above pics are really amateur hour? Your average chemistry department newsletter does better.

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    2. I don't think they care about the chemists reading the document; they care about the business people, and give them what they expect to see, so that maybe they'll feel okay about giving them some money. It's not honest, but lately it seems honesty is ill-valued in lots of endeavors. They could have just shown some chemical plants, fields full of corn or soybeans, some algal pools maybe, if they were interested in showing chemical potential outside of cheap shale more honestly, but I don't know if that would have been better for Accenture.

      The "purple spotlights" posts by Derek Lowe highlighted this disconeect pretty clearly.

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    3. Page 5 of the report, incidentally, has a nice example of that.

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    4. That we can agree on.

      On plus side, they didn't use any pentavalent carbon.....

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    5. Quit saying shale gas is "cheap". At the current prices of $4 million btu, it is more expensive in inflation adjusted terms for any time since the 1920's (as far back as the EIA has data) except for a ~5 year stint in the early eighties, and most of the aughts. Historically, it's expensive. It is just that oil has gotten more expensive faster, and coal (rightfully) is being more tightly regulated. These factors, combined with our general increase in population and wealth, are allowing gas demand to remain high despite the historically high prices.

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  3. The brochure is marketed towards investors not scientists.

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  4. Derek could re-enact some of the Things He Won't Work With experiments and their "reports" would go viral!

    Shoot, I'd pay money to see some of the Acccenture people I've known running around the lab on fire! <gr

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  5. As a chemist MBA, I feel a bit lucky after seeing this photo.

    Despite being top of my class at a top-tier business school, Accenture rejected my application. I figure it was because my resume was not purged of my years in lab because every job I have had has been in the lab. I guess we are not a good fit for one another.

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  6. looks like Hawaiian punch + dry ice to me. :-)

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  7. This is the way chemistry was depicted on Shock Theater in the late 1950s.

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  8. Management consultants know nothing about anything, but that is okay because the people they are consulting to either a) know less than that! or b) need an 'external' voice to justify an unpopular course of action.

    As a technical consultant I have, on occasion, run into management consultants when working for clients. I was once handed a copy of a report on a technology area and how a particular firm was positioned in it (with recommendations for change) by a well-known consulting firm by a client and asked for my opinion. I decided to be blunt and said, "This is what you get if you think that giving a recent oxbridge graduate two weeks and access to the internet is classified as an 'in-depth and comprehensive review of the area'".The client laughed and then told me how much the senior management had paid for it. Suffice it to say that I am definitely in the wrong job.

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  9. Hello, this is See Arr Oh, checking into the discussion!
    Text was written on a napkin by a C-suite exec.
    Marketing made the brochure.
    Intern used stock photos for the flasks : )

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  10. Come on, though... Is there anyone here who hasn't purposefully done this with a flask in the back of their hood / bench? (or accidentally done it while filling a dry ice trap?)

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  11. Having looked at the picture on this blog entry, I actually now think that the flask was inserted to avoid the truly awful decision to include the man on the parachute in the 'graph' (I use the term loosely) on the opposite page.

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  12. This is how management consultants express their contempt for mere chemists.

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  13. As a management chemist and someone who studied chemistry in college (BS in chem), I think the pictures are fine. It's important to remember the audience of the report: other managers and business folk. Most managers are pretty smart folk (just like scientists) when something is explained clearly, but business managers lack the technical knowledge of chemsits/scientists and their only understanding of chemistry is colored water in flasks and letters connected with lines. Showing a generic potential energy diagram on endothermic reaction would probably invoke a feeling of math or physics rather than chemistry. I suppose that's because people have certain stereotypes of what various academic subjects are. Accenture wanted to use pictures in such a way that they reinforced the idea that the report was about chemistry--using the colored water in lab glassware just reinforced that feeling.

    To chemjobber's point, chemistry is deep and rich, but it's hard to get someone who hasn't studied chemistry to look at a complex chemical picture and appreciate it. (Also, I think that I'm touching on what biotechtoreador said earlier.)

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